Modi Regime Attacks Press Freedom in India: New Report

Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights. Photo: Amnesty
Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights. Photo: Amnesty

The already deteriorating situation of press freedom in India got further hit as India lost two steps to fall at 138th position in the world. The global media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has released its World Press Freedom Index for 2018 which shows that journalists in India are under increasing threat posed by the ruling BJP regime headed by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

The World Press Freedom Index reveals that ever since Modi became PM in 2014, Hindu fundamentalists have been referring to journalists in extremely violent terms while hate speech is also a critical issue in India.

The Index report further says that any investigative reporting that annoys the ruling party or any criticism of Hindutva, an ideology that blends Hindu nationalism with an almost fascistic rhetoric, elicits a torrent of online insults and calls for the death of the reporter or writer responsible, most of it coming from the prime minister’s troll army.

[ Also Read: Modi’s Nationalism Is Threat to Press Freedom in India: Global Report ]

This unbridled verbal violence, according to the report, serves to support a leader who asserts himself as a strongman, a leader whose authority does not tolerate being undermined by reporters or editorialists.

RSF adds that this verbal violence has tragically led to physical violence. The newspaper editor Gauri Lankesh was gunned down outside her home in September after being the target of hate speech and death threats for criticizing Hindu supremacy, the caste system and discrimination against women.

The physical violence against journalists is largely responsible for India’s low ranking, RSF said. At least three journalists were murdered in connection with their work. More were killed in circumstances that were unclear, as is often the case in rural areas, where reporters are poorly paid.

The situation in the Kashmir Valley, a news black hole, contributed to the poor ranking of a country whose long tradition of vibrant media could nonetheless enable it to rise again in the Index.

Photo courtesy: Amnesty International

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Rakesh Raman